The Coronavirus which originated in the city of Wuhan, China has been wreaking havoc across the world. The World Health Organization has declared a global emergency and a team of WHO experts are assisting the Chinese public health officials with their research on Coronavirus.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses. It is common in the animals and, at times, can also evolve and infect humans. These viruses can cause illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The outbreaks of SARS and MERS happened in the years 2002 and 2012 respectively. This new Coronavirus has been named as a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). It is the 7th known Coronavirus that has affected humans. The case of novel Coronavirus was reported to WHO December 31, 2019, in Wuhan, China when the doctors found the patients to be showing pneumonia-like symptoms.
Where Did the Virus Come From?
The novel coronavirus is thought to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan. This market also sells the meat of other wild animals illegally. There were 41 cases that were first reported by the doctors in China, out of which 27 had exposure to this market.
Three out of the first four people that were reported with Coronavirus said they had no contact with this market. 55% of people that became ill because of the Coronavirus before January 1, 2020, had links to the Wuhan seafood market. However, this percentage was reduced to just 8.6% for people that acquired the Coronavirus after January 1, 2020. The scientists have yet to identify the actual source of this virus.
The Chinese researchers on February 7, 2020, said the virus could have spread from an infected animal species to humans through illegally trafficked pangolins. The pangolins are one of the most trafficked animals in the world, especially in Asia. These scaly anteaters are considered to be quite precious and are used in medicine and food.
The scientists, however, have identified the snakes or bats to be the original source of this novel Coronavirus.
How Many Have Been Infected by the Coronavirus?
More than 34,500 cases have been identified across the world. The Coronavirus has claimed at least 722 lives (at the time the article was written). Although the outbreak was first reported from the city of Wuhan the most cases of this virus have been identified in the Hubei Province of China. This is why scientists are trying to look for an exact cause of this virus.
How Dangerous is the Coronavirus?
Like respiratory illnesses, an infection caused by the 2019-nCoV can cause mild symptoms which include runny fever, nose, cough, sore throat and cough. The level of severity can vary from person to person and for some, it can even lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. The disease can be fatal to some especially the older people and those that have a weak immune system or are suffering from pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
Who Can Be Affected With the Coronavirus?
People that are staying or traveling to areas where the Coronavirus is circulating are at risk of being infected. For now, the virus is in China and it is unsafe to travel there. Other countries that have been reporting cases of people being infected with Coronavirus are people that have recently traveled to China or are working or living closely with these travelers.
Medical professionals that are caring for people infected with Coronavirus can also get the disease if they do not take proper precautions. They are at a higher risk and should protect themselves with proper infection prevention and control procedures.
How Does the Virus Spread Among Humans?
Coronavirus spreads through a sneeze, cough or any other contact with saliva. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs. The droplets land on the nose or mouth of the other people around the infected individual and these droplets are inhaled into the lungs. The scientists are still trying to learn more about the transmissibility of this virus.
What are the Symptoms of Illness and How Do You Know if You Have it?
The Coronavirus infects the lower respiratory tract of humans. Patients initially get a fever, cough and ache. This then progresses to shortness of breath and difficulties from pneumonia. Some individuals might also develop nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. People can get mildly ill, or can get infected but don’t get sick while others get mildly ill for some days, then quickly show more severe symptoms of pneumonia. People get sick between 2 and 14 days after they get infected.
What is Medicine to Treat or Prevent Coronavirus?
As of now, there is no specific medicine that has been recommended to treat or prevent the Coronavirus. However, those infected with Coronavirus should receive relevant care to treat the symptoms and stop it from further spreading. Those with severe illnesses should receive better care. All the people infected from the virus should be quarantined and kept separate from all the other patients in the hospital.
How to Protect Yourself from Being Infected by the Coronavirus?
- Wash your hands frequently with soap or hand sanitizer especially when returning home from shopping, working or touching contaminated surfaces.
- Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet between you and other people, especially when you find them coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. Our hands touch many surfaces that can be contaminated with the virus. Touching your eyes, mouth, and nose will transfer the virus from the surface to you.
- If you have a cough, fever and are finding problems while you are breathing, then go to a doctor.
- If you have traveled in an area in China where the Coronavirus has been reported, or you have been in close contact with a person that has traveled from China and is showing signs of respiratory problems, then you must visit your doctor.
- Those in China can also wear a mask that has been approved by a medical health professional.
WHO and Chinese health professionals are continuously researching more about this virus. They advise people not to panic and keep themselves safe by following basic hygiene procedures at home.
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